The color green has long been associated with envy, but it is increasingly becoming a pigment of mass illusion. Amid near-hysterical climate reporting, the United States and much of the West are willy-nilly adopting policies that could weaken our economy and boost China’s ascendancy at the expense of democracy and market economies.
Essentially, China is adopting a version of the great Muhammad Ali’s “go-to-rope” boxing strategy, which forced the opponent to exhaust themselves by throwing harmless punches as Ali lolled on the ropes. Then, as the rival began to weaken, Ali seized the moment and struck him down.
The same is happening with the emerging climate agenda. Under Paris and other agreements, China, along with India and other developing countries, has essentially been given a free pass not to achieve “carbon neutrality” until 2060. The argument is largely (at least formally) that the West is responsible for the fashionable strong climate ‘apocalypse’ due to its longer history of industrial growth, although neither China nor India seem eager to deindustrialise , to cut itself off from medical progress or otherwise halt its progress towards Western levels of prosperity.
Western countries, notably the United States but also the EU, have considerably reduced their emissions over the past decades. They have taken on huge costs to make their economies “greener” and in some cases have sought to eliminate or restrict entire industries, such as oil and gas, while imposing huge costs on their farmers, manufacturers , small business owners and , directly or indirectly, consumers.
By contrast, despite its penchant for Western greens with demonstration projects suggesting a shift to a “net zero” policy at some point in the future, China has recently made the decision to slow down its greenhouse gas reduction. . Amid a global energy crisis, China continues to expand its use of coal and other fossil fuel power plants. This allows Apple’s Tim Cook to present himself here as a progressive green visionary, while basing his company’s production in a country that emits more greenhouse gases than the US and EU combined.
China is not alone either. India is doing the same, and one can imagine that over time other developing countries, particularly in Africa, will want to have access to electricity. Today, one in ten people in the world do not have access to electricity and more than 3.5 billion do not have reliable access. Many of these countries are now looking to China, not the West, to meet this demand with new fossil fuel projects.
Ironically, green policies tend to push production out of places with tight environmental controls and into dirtier places with lower energy and regulatory costs. According to a study, California’s draconian laws have pushed so many industries and people out of the state that the net impact of emissions – that’s overall after all – has been negligible at best. Green policies have already accelerated the deindustrialisation of countries like the UK and could undermine recent efforts to bring factories back from China.
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Joël Kotkin is the author of The rise of neo-feudalism: a warning to the global middle class. He is Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director of the Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
Photo: Dennis Schroeder / NREL via Flickr from CC 2.0 license.